The Dominican Convents in Medieval Norway
Johnny Grandjean Gøgsig Jakobsen
Dominican History Newsletter, No.12 (2003)
Even though Scandinavia must have seemed like a rather dark and remote place for the founders of the Order of Preachers, it was almost from the beginning a quite integrated part of the Dominican world. The reason for this is probably partly due to the fact, that several Scandinavian students in Paris and Bologna are known to have joined the order in the early years. Another possible influence is, that Dominic himself on his first journey abroad on behalf of the Spanish king is quite likely – at least according to Scandinavian historians – to have been in Denmark and to have met with the both very intellectual and progressive Archbishop Anders Sunesen of Lund, in the middle of the preparations for a missionary crusade to the Baltic countries. Some scholars even suggest that it was Dominic’s wish to leave the Spanish chapter in order to join this Danish mission.
Whatever the reason, already on the first General Chapter, held in Bologna 1220, it was decided to send two Scandinavian fratres, Nicholas of Lund and Simon of Sweden, all the way back home to start a convent in the Swedish archiepiscopal city of Sigtuna. The year after, the first Dominican friar came to Norway – which was, however, most unintended and completely by accident! Frater Salomon of Aarhus had been sent on a similar mission as Nicholas and Simon to his homeland of Denmark with letters from Dominic and the pope to the Danish King Valdemar II and Archbishop Anders Sunesen. He travelled by foot until the coast of Flanders, probably Bruges, where he managed to get on board a ship destined for Copenhagen in Denmark. Unfortunately, the ship was caught by a storm and driven far up the North Sea, and when Salomon finally could put his feet back on solid ground, he had landed in the archiepiscopal town of Trondheim in the northern part of Norway – more than 1.000 kilometres sea journey away from his goal.